Archive for March, 2013

walking goose drawing in sand, March 2013

I come to the river because I like the sound of the water.  It does more than act upon the sand and driftwood here.  After hanging out at the Falls of the Ohio I feel relaxed because the rhythm of the water is also the rhythm of nature.  The waves that move back and forth slow my own internal sense of timing and puts me in sync with the universe.  The work-a-day life begins to lift away and a calm seeps in.  I don’t even need to be aware of the sound.  I know it is there and I trust it.  This restorative quality of water is not to be underestimated in this fast-paced, multitasking world and it is free if you are open to accepting its magic.

river erasing sand drawing, March 2013

partly erased sand drawing, March 2013

Spring is late in arriving this year.  It’s been an up and down cycle of mostly cool to cold temperatures.  Also, it seems that the river has been a little higher for a bit longer than I remember over the past several years.  2012 was positively balmy compared to this one.  It’s amazing how much difference a year can make .  Today is nice and the sun is shining and I get an early start on the day.

detail of driftwood, March 2013

Currently, there is plenty of driftwood lining the riverbank.  By studying how the driftwood was deposited, I get a sense for the water and how high it rose over the land.  Since this is Spring…I’m also on the lookout for seldom seen birds that are traveling through our area.  On my last outing, I was walking over the lines of driftwood when I spotted an unusual shorebird.  I managed a few images of it and I would like to share those with you now.  It was right in the middle of the driftwood and if it hadn’t moved…I might have gone in a different direction and missed it.  I live for these moments.

Great Lakes Oystercatcher, March 2013

head of Great Lakes Oystercatcher, March 2013

This is the increasingly rare Great Lakes Oystercatcher, (Haematopus polystyrenus) as seen at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  It has a large red bill like the two other oystercatcher species that live along our country’s marine coastlines.  Unlike them, this bird is strictly Midwestern and prefers fresh water wetlands, creeks, streams, and rivers.  The large bill is used to pry open the shells of fresh water clams and mollusks…although it is known to take crustaceans and other invertebrates upon opportunity.

Great Lakes Oystercatcher, March 2013

Great Lakes Oystercatcher, March 2013

The reason this bird is becoming scarce has everything to do with it losing its main food source.  The Tennessee and Ohio River Valleys are the world’s epicenter for fresh water mollusk diversity which is a little known fact.  Unfortunately, because of the many changes that have occurred with our rivers, these clams have become our most endangered animals with many species having become extinct already.  These clams are fascinating in their own right and have complex life cycles.  Wherever you find them is usually a good indicator of the quality of the water.  The Great Lakes Oystercatcher won’t find much in the way of its preferred food at the Falls.  The original clam diversity is missing and these days you are more likely to encounter Zebra Mussels or Asiatic Clams and both are well-established, invasive, nonnative species.

Great Lakes Oystercatcher, March 2013

Great Lakes Oystercatcher looking over its shoulder, March 2013

I was delighted by this almost comical bird which is rarely observed in this park.  It went about its business examining the driftwood and probing the sand for morsels of food.  I also watched it fly to the water’s edge and it was intent on checking out what the river was washing ashore.  The whole encounter lasted about 20 minutes before the bird flew off for parts unknown.  Satisfied with the day, I gathered my collecting bag and headed home.

The city of Louisville as seen from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

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logs on the dam, March 2013

It’s an unbelievably gorgeous morning at the Falls of the Ohio and I have the park to myself.  The Ohio River has been running high although we haven’t had a lot of rain pass through our area.  Most of this water is probably coming from snow melt and precipitation in the northern section of the Ohio River Valley.  The river is receding and one of the first sights I see are logs that have been stranded on the dam as the water level drops.  These logs will remain balanced here until the river shifts them around again.  As I begin my walk, I see driftwood and trash everywhere I look.

plastic trash and driftwood, March 2013

Accessing the bank is tricky and muddy.  I maneuver by walking on the backs of logs and balancing myself with my walking stick.  In areas where the river has dropped back… plastic trash, Styrofoam, and driftwood remain where this detritus floated in.  I like studying the patterns I see in the deposited wood and imagine the swirl of the river in these areas.  Of course, I find other treasures and oddities too.  Here are just a few objects that made it into the collecting bag.

plastic pickle, March 2013

My fake food collection keeps getting bigger and bigger.  Here’s a plastic pickle  I found.  On this day, I also picked up a plastic chicken drumstick, a plastic plum and in the bag already from my last visit are a plastic onion and a plastic cheeseburger!  I find all this plastic food to be an interesting indicator of the times we live in.

plastic pirate skull with eye-patch, March 2013

This is kind of cool.  It’s a pirate skull with movable eye-patch.  The river has really colored this object.  Here’s something more humorous.

goofy frog sunglasses, March 2013

These silly frog sunglasses may be the only amphibian inspiration I receive all year.  In all the years I’ve worked this project, I have come across one actual common toad and two small leopard frogs.  Perhaps the river is just too big and wild here for the frogs?

driftwood on the bank, March 2013

I decide to walk west along the riverbank and reach areas that are more driftwood than trash.  I always marvel at how the river lays the wood in fairly parallel rows.  That bright reddish-orange object in the foreground is the remains of a life preserver…it is one of two that I find on this day.

large washed up log, March 2013

Another tree with an intact root mass has been beached by the river.  Notice how all the branches have been knocked off.  This is fairly typical.  The river keeps subdividing these trees into smaller and smaller parts.  Up ahead I notice something that a muddy wave has just returned to the land.  I walk over and check it out and see something I’ve never seen here before.

beached Styro-fish, March 2013

It’s a big fish, but I don’t recognize the species.  It’s not too bloated and so I examine it more closely.  I think it may be one of those Asiatic carp species that have become so invasive to our bigger rivers?  Recently, in western Kentucky in the Land Between the Lakes area, there was the first ever commercial fishing tournament to try to harvest as many of these large carp as possible.  Strong nets are needed to catch them since they grow big and rarely if ever take a baited hook.  The idea behind the tournament was to  educate people that these fish are good to eat and to try to help create a commercial demand for them.

large Styro-carp in the hand, March 2013

Here I am holding the fish at arm’s length.  Notice that it has a relatively small mouth.  This fish feeds on microscopic plankton and other tiny food items which is why they are hard to hook by traditional means.  This is a thick-bodied fish with a large head and powerful tail.  I have known that these fish are in the Ohio River, but I haven’t had the chance to inspect one this closely before.  I’ve attached a couple more views of this fish.

Styro-carp facing right, March 2013

Styro-carp facing left, March 2013

By now, you are probably used to my game!  I made this fish from a hunk of Styrofoam I picked up on this day.  The Styrofoam reminded me of a fish and so that’s the direction I took this sculpture. The other found elements include:  fishing bobber eyes, red plastic gills, fins made from wood, shoe soles, and plastic junk.  This is how it looked before I started.

found piece of polystyrene before it became a fish, March 2013

I try to respect the basic shape the river gives me and feel that whatever results… is a collaboration between me and the river.  I don’t cut too much into the polystyrene because I also try not to release many of those tiny white beads back into the environment.  I try to work minimally and to clean up after myself.  It’s not a perfect system, but is what has evolved after so many years of coming out here.  I did find even more Styrofoam on my latest adventure and now just need the time to create something from it all.  My parting shot is the latest image of my outdoor studio.  See you next time from the banks of the Ohio River.

Outdoor studio at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

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Sweet Gum in early Spring, March 2013

Perhaps it was the fine quality of this pre-Spring day that caused renewed stirrings within the old Styro-Samurai Warrior?  It had been many years worth of seasons since the Emperor had granted him this land to protect and bequeath to his descendants  in gratitude for the loyalty of his service.  He came to the realization that his advancing age was rendering him mortal and that if he wanted to walk his vast estate one last time…he had better do it sooner than later.  The Styro-Samurai attached his heirloom katana to his back and ventured alone away from his home.  The journey could take him many weeks to complete.  This sunny day began with much promise.  The trees were starting to produce buds and yes, there were early season wildflowers too.  The birds were returning.  A favorite Yellow-bellied Sapsucker the Warrior had seen for the past five years was once again in his favorite Sweet Gum tree.  Geese were everywhere and an Osprey flew overhead with a fish in its talons.  Life seemed to be moving in the timeless rhythm that it always had.  The Warrior decided to venture closer to the river for a better look.

Styro-Samurai by the river, March 2013

The first thing the Warrior observed were trees submerged by the river that normally stood high and dry.  In all his years, he had not seen this happen very often and he stood transfixed by the sight.  Rousing himself, the Warrior continued his walk to a favorite creek.  In his mind he recalled the agitated call of the Belted Kingfisher on the wing and its wildness made him smile.  Upon reaching the creek…this is what the Warrior saw.

driftwood lining the creek banks, March 2013

Hundreds of logs representing hundreds of once living trees lined both sides of the creek.  What is happening here!?  These were trees from the pure land and their wood is a treasure, their roots hold the soil together, and their leaves provide cooling shade in Summer among all the other blessings they bestow.  These trees represent so many potential fulfilled wishes.  So much wasted wood and where did it come from?  The Warrior surmised that this was further evidence of flooding.  These trees probably washed away from their respective banks from distant fiefdoms and were carried here by the spirit of the river?

Styro-Warrior and exposed tree roots, March 2013

Walking the shoreline he came upon more evidence that the river was claiming the trees that dared to grow nearest to it.  For the Styro-Samurai, it was an alarming sight, but nothing had yet suggested that this way anything other than Nature being moody.  His view was about to change as he rounded the bend of the river.

Styro-Samurai and plastic trash, March 2013

The Warrior entered a field that was strewn with discarded plastic and Styrofoam.  This was an outrage and the Samurai drew his katana! Who dares to be this disrespectful to the land!

Styro-Samurai with drawn katana, March 2013

At last, someone to blame for this clearly was the by-product of men. The Warrior was seeing red and looked for someone or something to strike back at…but there was no one else present except for the gulls flying over the river and they were making no sounds.

Styro-Samurai with drawn katana, March 2013

Marching with his sword drawn, the Warrior advanced down the riverbank.  There was a quality in his rage that was tempered by battle and had made him a legendary and feared adversary in the prime of his youth.  But that was then and this is now and as he neared one of his favorite trees…he sheathed his katana again.  Up ahead was a treasured spot where a large and special Cottonwood tree grew.  The Styro-Samurai’s pace quickened in anticipation.

Cottonwood tree hangout at the Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

Styro-Samurai approaching Cottonwood hangout, March 2013

This great and revered Cottonwood tree that in the Warrior’s time was the setting for many tea ceremonies was now covered in plastic tarps and a sign warning to “keep out” was posted.  Again, here is the hand of man at work!  Who has the impudence do this in the Styro-Samurai’s land?  By what right would these interlopers claim this tree as their own and defile it with their junk?  Full of righteous indignation, the Warrior entered the space under the trunk of the tree.

camp under the Cottonwood tree, Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

It was empty…no one was there at all.  Although the smell of wood smoke was present…the ashes were cold.  Improvised seating was arranged around the fire pit.  Growing depressed, the Styro-Samurai sought the warmth of the sunshine and sat down to ponder what he had observed thus far.  Indeed, the world had changed much since he last walked it far from the comforts and isolation of his fortified castle.  The old soldier had a revelation that mindfulness had been usurped by consumption based upon all the trash he saw everywhere.  The world was moving away from him.

Steve, the Arrowhead Man, March 2013

While the Styro-Samurai was engaged by his thoughts…he was approached by a common man who gestured that he wished to speak and so began a conversation.  The man also remembered a different time and place where respect was accorded to both man and beast alike.  There was an understanding that nature worked in certain ways and that it was wise to stay within the sustainable limits.  The man confirmed to the Warrior that the changes he was seeing in his own land were in fact simultaneously occurring everywhere else too.  The common man then asked for forgiveness for what he was about to say which the Warrior granted.  He reminded the old soldier that in their day…there was a common and accepted code that shaped the behavior of all.  It began with the Emperor and then passed through the Samurai down to everybody else.  It seemed to the man, that the flow of wisdom had been interrupted by a changing and challenging time and needed something like a new code to help bring it all back into balance.  With those words the common man took his leave.

plastic sand rake, March 2013

The Styro-Samurai had seen enough and walked back to his castle.  He mulled over the words the mysterious common man had left him with and acknowledged to himself that they seemed to ring true.  A different day was indeed at hand and perhaps the time of the warlords was ending.  The idea that a different code was needed, but what can one do to achieve enlightenment in an impure land? When the Warrior reached his home he cleansed himself and before the assembled public, removed his sacred katana from its scabbard and replaced it with an ordinary garden rake.

Styro-Samurai working his rock garden, March 2013

For several weeks the old Warrior meditated by creating a rock and sand garden.  Working the earth helped create a different connection to the land that he didn’t have before and was now cultivating.  The Styro-Samurai invited his courtesans and the other people in the castle to assist him.  To his surprise, most everyone found this activity relaxing and beneficial.  It no longer became his garden and became our garden which brought with it a sense of shared responsibility and value.   He wondered if this idea would work for a land the size of a country ?  Soon he would try talking to the Emperor about this and hope for the best.

water-rolled wood, sand, gravel, and rock, Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

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Duct tape ball in situ at the Falls of the Ohio

At first it looked like any other ball among the wood chips and I almost passed it by.  After all, balls are the most common toy that I find at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  But something told me to look more closely at this one and that’s when I noticed the network of filaments that were eroding away on the surface of this silvery sphere.  Picking it up, I then realized I was holding something different and to my mind and eye a bit more fascinating too.  Yes, it is a ball, but one made from duct tape!

handmade ball collection

Over the years I have found several other handmade balls made from different materials and they always elicit wonder in me as artifacts.  There is something in the human need to create form from formlessness that is at the root of creativity and can be seen in this eccentric collection.  I think this can happen reflexively too without deep thought being involved. The largest of these balls would fit comfortably in the palm of your hand and is slightly smaller than an American baseball.  Since most of them are made from various tapes…I’m guessing they are the waste products of work.  What began as something relatively flat gets transformed by the mind and hand into a fully satisfying three-dimensional object that you can grasp, throw, or roll.  For me, there is something appealing art-like in these objects which began life as one thing and by shifting its original purpose and function becomes something entirely different.

two found duct tape balls

Here are two duct tape balls I have found by the river.  The one on the left is pictured on the wood chips and its partner has vestiges of dried paint or primer on its surface.  The spheres are created by layering one flat piece of tape over another until a ball is formed.  It is not necessary to create a ball to dispose of this waste tape, but this is what their makers did…and then it wound up in the river which is yet again another story to ponder.

two balls made from electrical tape

These two balls are made from stretchy electrical tape and are tight and dense.  I remember that the very first handmade ball I found was also made from this smooth black tape.  When my eldest son was a small boy and needed a project to do involving recycled materials… I helped him construct this circus pull toy from materials found at the river.

recycled materials circus toy with handmade tape ball

At the heart of this toy is a handmade ball made from electrical tape.  My son thought this would make a great prop for a circus lion to stand on while it jumped through a flaming hoop!  Of course, the only fire we actually used came from our imaginations.  The yellow plastic lion was also found at the river and has a nice oily patina on it that comes from being in the river for a while.  Here’s a smaller ball made from green tape.

ball made from green plastic tape  I’m sure people are making balls from paper-based tapes too, but these don’t survive being exposed to the elements for very long.

peeling cellophane tape ball

This ball made with cellophane tape is barely holding together.  It’s surface is fragile and the adhesive is losing its bond.  As it starts to peel apart, sand caught between the layers is released.

compressed aluminum foil balls


The four balls pictured here are made from compressed aluminum foil.  Perhaps they were used for cooking and once their original purpose was over, the owners rolled the foil around the palms of their hands like one would do to form a ball from either clay or snow.  The funny thing about aluminum foil and the river is that the water somehow squeezes it even more and the ball becomes denser and more solid.  Anyway, I hope you enjoyed looking at this rare and somewhat tongue in cheek odd ball collection where the sum is definitely greater than the parts!  Spring will be arriving soon and the Ohio River is calling…until next time.

electrical tape balls

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image of Earth from space, 2013

Unknown hackers have recently posted images on the worldwide web reputedly obtained from government sources that state extraterrestrial aliens are among us.  The pictures go a long way in answering the question: “Are we truly alone in the universe?”.  The answer would be a resounding “no”! The information was lifted from top-secret computers from around the world, but seem to be centered on information purloined in the United States and New Zealand.  The group responsible for this posting call themselves members of “In Vino Veritas” and state their purpose is to let the truth be known.  In their communique “In Vino Veritas”  believes we are now  “evolved enough to handle the truth”.  Regardless, the cat is out of the bag…whatever that means?  Following are excerpts from their sensational posting which has gone bacterial on the internet.

Styrosian and crayfish, March 2013

Much of this stolen information centers around a lone alien that is believed to have crashed landed at the Falls of the Ohio State Park in southern Indiana.  After several years of trying, U.S. government scientists were able to break the transmission code used to transmit images off world and were then traced to their source in this small park.  The images show a “classical” looking humanoid-alien with large dark eyes and no nose exploring the environs of the park.  The image above shows the alien contemplating a dead crayfish, but it is unknown at this time whether “it” is responsible for the death of this crustacean.

Styrosian on tree stump, March 2013

Many of the “Falls of the Ohio Alien” show this visitor exploring nature.  There are many more images that seem to suggest that the extraterrestrial is engaged by this context in an almost reverential way.  Intentions, however, are difficult to gauge and there are some at the highest level who believe this is a scout for an impending invasion. Thus far, scientists have not been able to physically locate said alien.  Another image is believed to be of the wrecked space ship.

upturned hot tub, March 2013

This picture which cleverly resembles an upturned hot tub, could be either a space craft or some sort of time machine?  Remarkably, the New Zealand alien is also believed to have come to Earth in a bath-tub like ship.  These images from the Falls Alien are thought to have been taken with a “camera” mounted on a small drone based on their bird’s-eye point of view.  Thus far, this actual “hot tub” craft has eluded detection.  There is, however, other enigmatic circumstantial evidence that has been gathered that seems to imply an alien(s) “hand” at work.  Consider these strange formations found in the park.

map of the solar system, March 2013

This is a remarkable find and is obviously a map of our solar system.  The center golf ball is the sun surrounded by corresponding blackened buck-eye planets.

rope formation, March 2013

Could this found rope be a landing or navigational marker for a space craft or a piece of art?  The idea that aliens have an appreciation for art is further evidence of their more evolved status.

coal symbol, March 2013

Here is one of many “Star Symbols” made from locally procured coal.  Their exact function is also unknown but recent speculation also suggests a fusion of art and science at work here.  Notice the energy field radiating away from the star.

alien effigy artifact, March, 2013

This is one of the most impressive artifacts of all and recently excavated at a site near the Falls of the Ohio.  It is an alien effigy made from a composite materials including rubber and plastic.  The fact this alien has a nose also suggests the potential for much variation among different races or species of aliens to have secretly visited our planet.  Here are a few more images of aliens that were part of the recently posted hacker trove.  Let’s start with the image obtained from New Zealand which is identified as being ” a Dede”.

alien-competition, Dede alien, March 2013

This “Dede” alien is unusual in sporting antennae.  Notice how the pose seems to suggest appreciation for light and life.  Very little is known of alien activities around the world and this image is of extreme importance for this reason.  It is believed that a similar form of transmission was used by the “Dede” alien to “beam” this image back to the visitor’s home world or waiting space craft.  Scientists speculate the dark spectacles are needed because the “Dede” alien comes from a world whose sun isn’t as intense as our own.

Alien Ballet, 10/09

This image described as being an “alien ballet” also comes from the Falls of the Ohio.  Government sources date this image to 2009 which predates the current Falls alien.  The exuberant dance also suggest a love of fun and art.  After what must have been a long journey through dangerous outer space…it must have felt great to be safe and in a new environment.  The elaborate head-gear may suggest sexual dimorphism in this particular species of alien?  Can we safely assume that the male is on the right and female on the left…or does this picture represent two different aliens who are comfortable with one another?

Styrosian with purple flowers, March 2013

So ends a quick overview of the “leaked” evidence of alien visitors to our planet.  It will be fascinating to see if this information will be taken to heart or denied outright in typical governmental fashion?  Are we indeed grown-up enough to handle the idea that we are no longer alone in a wide open universe?  Thus far, the evidence suggests that our visitors from other worlds have had nothing but peaceful intentions and actually have been caught in acts that suggest they appreciate the variety of life around them.  If we could only learn from them…again, time will tell.

Hello from the Falls of the Ohio, March 2013

This post (which was fun to do) is in honor of Dede Puppets one year anniversary.  Congratulations from the Falls of the Ohio!  The Dede Puppets link can be found on my blogroll in the right hand column.

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Spray bottle trigger assembly, March 2013

The range of plastic refuse one encounters at the Falls of the Ohio State Park is both numbing (it’s obviously trash and shouldn’t be here) and morbidly fascinating (the design sensibility and colors ) catches one’s eye and occupies the mind.  Consider the variations in something as mundane as “spray bottle triggers” if indeed this is what you call these things?  I’m not sure when I started noticing these objects and photographing them…but here they are.  Each adventure to the river is sure to garner multiple images and story lines that I sift through at my leisure.  Consider this a personal cleansing of the spray bottle trigger palette.  Ironically, much thought went into designing each of these beauties to facilitate dispersal of their contents from plastic bottles.  I like the rotating tips that give me options such as “spray” or “stream” and so forth.  These triggers are ingenious and they do their jobs well.  Without further adieu and fanfare…here are more images from an admittedly odd collection.

red and black spray bottle trigger, March 2013

orange and white trigger, March 2013

dirty yellow and white trigger, March 2013

yellow and white trigger, March 2013

another yellow and white trigger, March 2013

white and green trigger, March 2013

yellow/green spray bottle trigger, March 2013

dark green trigger, March 2013

green and white trigger, March 2013

green and clear plastic trigger, March 2013

blue and white trigger, March 2013

another blue and white trigger, March 2013

white and purple trigger, March 2013


One final image in closing.  You know you have “arrived” when a cute miniature is produced.  Here’s a recent find from a sandy bank of the Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio State Park.

miniature green plastic spray bottle, March 2013

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